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Bikerumor Interview – Dreamride Founder Lee Bridgers

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What do you get when you combine the long travel of a Freeride bike with the geometry of an XC racer? According to Dreamride founder Lee Bridgers, a mountain bike that does everything better than any other bike out there. Lee creates Dreamrides one at a time, custom measured to each buyer, runs a Moab tour company and runs the Dreamride bike shop.

Founded in 1996, Dreamride takes your measurements, riding style and other information and designs the bike, then they’re built by Ventana, Moots, Lynskey, Pegoretti or Land Shark…depending on which frame material you desire. Their newest creation, the Fully 69 (pictured above), combines a 29″ front wheel with 5″ of travel and a 26″ rear with 6″ of travel to create an aggressive handling XC/All Mountain style bike.

After coming across this unique brand, which is based in Moab, UT, I sent Lee a few questions. What came back is a very interesting (and opinionated) perspective on other mountain bike brands, his history of directing extreme riding for film companies and the genesis of the Dreamride brand. Hit “more” to read the interview and check out pics/deets of the bikes…

A customer with a custom Moots 69er designed by Dreamride…before Moots launched their 69er Gristle.

BIKERUMOR: What was the impetus for starting your own brand?

LEE: I have never been satisfied with the geometry, fit, strength or performance of stock production bikes and frames. I am older than 99% of the riders I guide and sell to, so I need an advantage to stay out front. Every detail of a Dreamride bike is aimed at gaining that advantage.

After a few years of setting up bikes for film stunts, finding it very difficult to balance safety with performance, I fell in with Tony Ellsworth (1996-7), who was then having his frames manufactured by Gibson Design Group, the mother company of Ventana. The original Dreamride bike was to be the Dreamride Moment (how our guides and clients describe those days when you see a double rainbow or wildlife situation on a ride), which later became an Ellsworth bike. I was never satisfied with the lateral strength or braking efficiency of the ICT design, though very excited by Sherwood Gibson’s craftsmanship in the design and fabrication of the original bushing Ellsworth Truth, which I still consider one of the best bikes of all time (Sherwood also built the first Turners, by the way).

When Tony took his production elsewhere, I bailed on the Moment project and headed straight for Sherwood at Ventana, who had a four bar rear end that was only about 2% less pedal efficient, but was around 90% more laterally rigid. The fact that Ventana was owned by the fellow who designs and builds the frames himself was a huge factor that led to the Dreamride brand. Sherwood is such a practical and open-minded guy, and easy-going to a fault. We began exchanging design ideas and gripes about existing systems. Not only did my bikes grow out of the relationship, but Ventana’s frames got better, as well. Dreamride’s sales and marketing gave Ventana a shot in the arm at a time when they were down and almost out, so Sherwood was happy to build our longer-legged, steeper and higher Dreamride frames one at a time even if he thought I was a bit eccentric in wanting to produce a long travel bike with XC handling qualities with one-off custom sizing for each client. We began with a couple of prototypes in 2004 that realized the long travel XC idea I had been pushing with Ellsworth for years. The Dreamride bikes gave me a lot of control over performance and Sherwood was always there to tell when I was going outside the lines of good engineering.

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Lee tests his Fully 69 on the rocky terrain of Moab.

BIKERUMOR: In particular, what was lacking or wrong with other frames/bikes that you were using for your stunt teams and tours?

LEE: Performance and strength are prime issues in stunts and rentals in Moab. A 26″ wheeled bike has to have at least 6″ of travel to work right over the rough ground we enjoy. It seems that almost every stock bike I try is built for crummy bike handlers, for safety and to avoid lawsuits from the stupids. Companies build for people who sit on the saddle all the time, which means a low bottom bracket and a slack head angle. This makes the bike “feel” safe at speed, but locks you into point and shoot and coasting over bumps. I design bikes to be quick handlers, that pedal over obstacles, and that maintain stability and uncanny control under an experienced rider. I expect a rider to get out of the saddle (or just off the saddle a bit) and use body position as a way to change geometry on the fly with weight shifts. This means the bike can be quick and still handle fast downhill runs.

As a result of the longer travel design and the accompanying sag, we incorporate a higher bottom bracket for clearance while pedaling through and over boulders and on slickrock sidehills. All other frames we tried (aside from Ventana’s four bar suspension designs) were either so inefficient or so laterally flexible that you could go into a corner hot and come out going in the wrong direction, a real problem when racing or doing stunts that are not simple flops from height: In a hard turn the rear end of the bike “winds up” storing energy in the chainstays, shockstays and rocker arm (and sometimes in the front triangle itself), releasing this stored energy as the bike emerges from the lateral load of g-forces in the corner.

The strength issue is there, as well. I would rather have a frame that weighs 6 or 7 pounds and lasts 5 years of hard riding and guiding without breaking, than one that weighs 5 and breaks after three years of recreational riding. Moab breaks stuff. Just ask the manufacturers. The industry is so fixated on weight that it does stupid things. It is also fixated on trying to produce something with radical looks, so much so that people forget or ignore basic engineering laws. A triangle is still the strongest geometry structure!

As for stunts, we used to spend many thousands of dollars on a bike for a single stunt. We even had long travel frames built from steel tubing, creating bikes that weighed well over 50 pounds, simply for safety sake. We’d buy a jacked up fork because we could get 10 inches of travel out of it, work on it for a week, do the stunt, then sell the fork for half what we put into it. We were offered deals from manufacturers to put their bikes in movies, but safety of the stunt riders was more important to me than the money I could make selling product placement, so I went for safety and started building my own designs with Sherwood Gibson’s solid logic behind every aspect of the engineering. Because I am such a freak for safety and environmental issues, film companies now call me and weasel knowledge and connections, so if someone else answers the phone, they keep the film people away from me. I’ll still work for them, but I call them idiots whenever I can. Some might make decent films, but most are irresponsible and try to get everything on the cheap, even though they make millions on the movie.

BIKERUMOR: Are there some clips on YouTube or something of some of the stunt footage you produced?

LEE: Rent the crummy IMAX film EVEREST. It made a ton of money and they actually paid me. I did the entire mountain biking segment – production manager, DA, stunt coordinator, location manager and hired the helicopter crew, stunt doubles. I worked with a company that I don’t like to mention to have the bikes built specifically for that shoot. Those bikes were the first pedaling freeride bikes ever! I was promised one of them and the entire crew signed it and they never gave it to me. There are many others, mostly video productions, but I don’t want to give those clowns any publicity.

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BIKERUMOR: You describe the Dreamride bike concept as an “XC bike with long travel”…does that mean it has more of an XC oriented angles versus the slacker geometry you typically find on longer travel freeride/all-mountain bikes?

Yes, more or less. We build versions that are for more all mountain and light freeride use, but we stick with the quicker geometry even on those. The head angle on the Fully 69 is 70.3°, and the typical chainstay is 17″. (Editor’s note: by comparison, Giant’s 6.75″ travel Reign has a much slacker 67° head angle and 17.3″ chain stay. Their 4″ travel Anthem XC racer has a 72° head angle and 16.7″ chainstay.)

BIKERUMOR: What percentage of Dreamrides are ordered with the 29/26 combo versus 26/26 wheel size?

LEE: We sold more 26ers last year (5 to 1 ratio), but the F-69 should take over sales, except in smaller sizes or for those who jump or drop. Everyone who tries the F-69 in the rough says that it is the ultimate mountain bike. The 6-9 combo is truly the best of both worlds and combined with our Ventana four bar 6″ travel 26″ wheel rear end, it simply smokes. It accelerates AND it rolls over stuff. I have three Dreamride Fully bikes myself (F-69, ClimbMAX and Mutant HD), but I end up riding the F-69 every time. We have been selling custom Dreamride spec’d Moots 69ers (now called the Moots Gristle – a horrible name) and have been very happy with the results. Moots is a smart group of folks!

BIKERUMOR: How long have you been building the 29/26 frame?

LEE: We started by building a 69er rigid hardtails in titanium in 2006. I used a Chinese manufacturer (same company what builds for Litespeed and Merlin) to run off a few prototypes in 29 and 69 formats. The 69er was such a kick that I had Sherwood build the 69er suspension proto. It was spot-on from the start due to geometry tweaks on the ti frames. We still offer the 69 ti bike as a custom order with a frame built for us by Lynskey from drawings we finalized with the Chinese frames, or we can provide a Moots custom 69er with slightly different geometry.

BIKERUMOR: What’s the lightest you’ve built one up (29/26)?

LEE: The titanium Dreamride White Rim 69er weighs 22 to 24 pounds, depending on tires and rims. The F-69 is just under 29 pounds in the smallest size (15″ – with 23.3″ top tube length) with fat tires.

BIKERUMOR: Approximately how many bikes do you sell in an average month? What’s the typical wait time from order to delivery?

LEE: At one point we sold 100 a year, but now that we are focused purely on extreme high end builds and much more exotic vacations, we sell about a dozen Dreamride bikes a year and about 25 bikes built from Moots, Pegoretti, Ventana or Lynskey frames. We sell quite a few Moots and Pegoretti frames sans build and a few Ventana frames and a couple of bikes each year. We are not about sales numbers. If numbers get out of hand we cannot offer the personal service we take pride in. Wait time on the Dreamride bikes is about three weeks to a month, but we can do better for a rush fee. It is a full custom fit frame and bike, built for the client from the ground up, so the turn around is pretty fast. We just added Land Shark custom steel bikes with about the same turnaround time.

Dreamride's Moab storefront.

BIKERUMOR: What do you mean when say you sell Pegoretti, Moots, etc. Are those custom bikes from those manufacturers that simply use your geometry and specs? What would be the difference between ordering through you versus directly from those manufacturers?

LEE: In most cases with complete bikes we customize geometry to our specs, but we also build up a lot of stock frames, as well. People who come to me want something different usually, it is my rep, I guess. I really have the fit and custom geometry thing down, especially on mountain bikes. For the road bikes, I trust Dario to give me what I want just by telling him measurements and the way we want the bike to handle. You cannot order direct from Moots or Pegoretti. They both refer certain clients to us, which is flattering.

BIKERUMOR: Do many people take you up on the Tour offer with purchase of their bike?

LEE: 3 or 4 individuals a year go for the full pop. We have a handful of people who have bought several bikes from us and taken repeated vacations with us in various locations, but things have been slowing down due to the economy. For the upcoming year we are offering free guiding and lodgings as part of high end Moots bike purchases. We are socialists—we will bend for those who are not as financially endowed, if they simply ask. The Dreamride bikes don’t allow us to do much in the way of perks because our production costs are so high (the profit margin is pretty sad because we do the frames one-off and absorb the custom fees on each one), but for Moots customers we throw in a lot of free attention and perks, if they are into it.

Dreamride’s La Sal Loop road build, a hybrid ‘cross bike built for offroad and commuting use.

BIKERUMOR: Does your company still offer tours separate from a bike purchase? If so, what are some of the options and details of the tour? Do you have Dreamrides available for those that don’t bring their own bike?

LEE: Certainly. Our business began as a film services company, then a tour company, then we added equipment dealerships and our own bikes, so the tours have always been a huge part of our business. We have maintained a mom and pop small business mentality, running away many more tours than we accept, but we still entertain 25 to 50 people a year.

We couldn’t be so picky on the type of equipment we offer if it were not for the tours, and vice versa. We don’t like to be babysitters or to cater to people who are not actually mountain bikers, unless they are willing to pay the big bucks for a private vacation package. We let the day tour hacks on Main Street deal with Barney, Betty and Bam Bam on a budget. Our clients are the BEST! This keeps our guide staff happy, healthy and fresh. Our guides, unlike guides for other companies we know, would not work for another tour company. I get work as an expert witness in lawsuits involving tour companies and cycling equipment and the stories I can and cannot tell are testament to our hiring and operational methods.

We offer Moab ride series that are more focused on experienced riders, smaller groups and more personal attention, so our guides get to enjoy the goods while they are sharing them. Our group size average is two or three. Private solos and couples are most of our business. We offer standard services (guide, shuttle, bike rental, lodgings) and upscale elite services that include much more flexibility, access to extreme high end rentals, gourmet food, luxurious lodgings, long distance shuttles to gain access up to 100 miles from Moab, and rare guide services that you don’t see from other tour companies run by non-bikers and guided by college dropouts. We employ a botanist, biologist and an herbalist. We are all amateur geologists and naturalists. I am adopted Navajo and my family’s home on the rez has mountain biking that makes Moab look whimpy, so I take a solo or couple down to the rez once or twice a year, allowing the most respectful of them to join in traditional ceremonies.

Miki Bridgers on a Hawaii Dreamride guided tour.

I am also a former professional guitar player, producer and songwriter, and former fine art college professor and administrator with three degrees including a terminal Fine Art degree in filmmaking, so those who pay to ride with me can enjoy unique music or film as part of the trip. The sandstone amphitheaters around here make fine places for music in nature! We have had quite a few clients from the music business and some of the best times I have been part of include jamming in the Dreamride house with people I respect and admire. We offer a very special Hawaii package for couples–the top end of the vacations we provide. We have musicians and native friends on the Island. For the right couple our connections turn what is already an exciting and beautiful private vacation into a family happening.

BIKERUMOR: Are there any 3rd party reviews of the bikes that we should link to?

LEE: http://www.dreamride.com/clients.html has quite a few.

BIKERUMOR: Lee, thanks for the interview and have a great New Year!

Dreamride’s titanium White Rim fully rigid 69er.
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15 years ago

Does Lee still blindfold his clients before he takes them to his “top secret” riding area………better known as Bartlett Wash?!?! What do you suppose his suckers, oops, I mean “clients” think when they get out of the van, take their blindfolds off and see dozens of other riders already there riding the rocks? Oh, and how many Hollywood movies has anyone seen lately with mountain bike stunt work in them? Hmmm………. Yeah, I bet his Hollywood hotline is really ringing off the hook. It’s no wonder the only person in Moab that likes Lee is Lee. Dreamride is his own dream-world……

Lee Bridgers
15 years ago

Yes, I do blindfold some people on the secret rides. Bartlett Wash is no secret at this point, though it was when we started business—Now it is so destroyed by riders with no environmental awareness that I rarely take people out there, unless I am traveling past it to the real goods. It sure takes good pictures, though, don’t it? There are some pictures of secrets on our site, if you dig, but I try not to give them away with landmarks. Some of those spots look much like Bartlett, because I just love the Entrada slickrock. I have two rides that are 75 miles long on Entrada rock alone, and you cannot find that anywhere near Bartlett. Take a look at the top our our vacation catalog page at http://www.dreamride.com/custom.html. The picture there is just one of many from my mom’s home on the rez, as is the shot on our splash page–http://www.dreamride.com/index.html. That is why they are secrets. Most are far enough from Moab that the secret seekers will never find them. And, I haven’t worked on a movie in about eight or nine years, though I still get at least a call a month. There is a whole lot of stunt work out there (I did a lot of helicopter work for video productions and those are out there for anyone who wants to not get paid–the Hollywood cats usually pay), but stunt work is primarily based on the west coast at this point. By the way, the person who wrote the comment sounds like he has a hard on for me. I AM in my own dream world, by the way. The only difference between me and the commentor is that I can share mine with others. I was trained to do that.

15 years ago

I work as a guide for Lee and don’t recognize anything “Jay” (real name?) says as reality. All of the clients I’ve guided have said the rides I’ve led were the BEST of their lives. When Lee talks about “secret” rides, he’s not suggesting anything illegal or environmentally unsound – he’s talking about routes less traveled that are unknown to the general mountain biking community, but that are spectacular and unique. Bartlett Wash is a tiny part of a giant ride that my riders have raved about. I know that Lee has friends scattered around the world, but none of them reside with the gossips and cliques of Moab.

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